Arrowood by Laura McHugh
Spiegel & Grau, 2016. Hardcover, 288 pages.
McHugh’s sophomore novel spins the tale of an unsolved disappearance with flashbacks to the past. Arden Arrowood’s father has passed away and she has inherited the family home in Keokuk, Iowa, which sits on a bluff high above the Mississippi River. As the novel opens, she is returning home after nearly two decades away. While she longed to return to the place of her childhood, the house, Arrowood, was the site of a crime that haunts her memory for it is where her younger twin sisters went missing on Arden’s watch.
Upon her return to Keokuk, Arden sees that the town is no longer what she remembers and she is drawn back into the mystery surrounding her sisters. Josh, a local writer is trying to solve the Arrowood kidnapping case and draws Arden back into the mystery’s fold. As they work together to piece together clues and decode old memories, Arden must also settle into her new life. Her childhood best friend, Ben Ferris, and his sister Lauren reenter the picture and all resume their relationship to varying degrees. She must also see to fixing the decaying house while also being asked to open her home for a holiday tour. As part of that, Arden must deal with Ben and Lauren’s mother and the house’s’ caretaker, Dick Heaney, both of whom may be suspects in her sisters’ disappearance. As new information comes to light, how will Arden react? Will she finally learn the truth?
I enjoyed reading this novel more than McHugh’s debut, The Weight of Blood. As an undergraduate history major who attended a university with a historic preservation program, the nostalgia and description of the grand homes appealed to me. And the fact Arden also studied history made her a much more relatable character to me than Lucy or Lila in The Weight of Blood. I was able to go to a local book signing of Arrowood where McHugh stated that she hoped the book managed to show the decline of small town America and I think she did an excellent job on this. Looking at the more literary aspects of this novel, it was more than just a mystery. Arrowood was also a coming of age story as Arden grew and matured through the novel. McHugh kept readers guessing about the final outcome through a great deal of foreshadowing that caused one to leap from one probable outcome to another, making this novel hard to put down.
By the way, isn’t the cover gorgeous? It also fits the story quite well.
Do you think you will read this novel? If you already have, what did you think? Have you read the Weight of Blood? What did you think about that novel?